Mighty Mittler

Mike Mittler

Mike Mittler helped launch Carl Edwards’ NASCAR career in 2002. Both will be inducted into the Ozarks Area Racers Foundation Hall of Fame on Jan. 6 in Springfield. (Photo courtesy Mike Mittler)

Mike Mittler is renowned for his ability to spot young driving talent, opening the NASCAR door to guys like fellow Missourians Carl Edwards and Jamie McMurray.

But when Mittler is inducted into the Ozarks Area Racers Foundation Hall of Fame next month in Springfield, the St. Louis native wants to use his time it the spotlight to raise awareness for a bigger cause.

The Community Blood Center of the Ozarks will conduct a blood drive – in honor of Mittler and area racing crewman and four-time organ transplant recipient Brandon Riddle – before the induction ceremony, from 2-5 p.m. on Jan. 6 inside the Ozarks Empire Fairgrounds E-Plex.

Mittler was diagnosed a few months ago with Multiple Myeloma and will undergo an autologous stem cell transplant in February. He’s optimistic about his health outlook, though is realistic about the challenges ahead.

Mittler said it’s important to use the blood drive and Ozarks Area Racers Hall of Fame induction as  a rallying cry for everyone, and particularly those in racing, to undergo yearly health checks.

“Unfortunately, my health took a severe turn but I’m dealing with it and working through it,” he said. “My message is to try and help other people. Racers are kind of a unique group. A lot of them, like me, are hard-headed and it’s hard to get them to stop and go to the doctor.

“Had I not been going to the doctor for my yearly check up, I would not have found this out and my disease would have progressed much further.”

Mittler said he’s “humbled and honored” to go into the Ozarks Area Racers Foundation Hall of Fame. His wife, Beverly, grew up in Springfield and often attended races at the old Fairgrounds Speedway – which was literally a few feet from where the Hall of Fame event will be held.

“This means so much to me, especially when you look at the people who already are in there and look at who is going in this year,” Mittler said.

Among those joining Mittler in the 10-person class are former NASCAR drivers Edwards and Ken Schrader, along with former southwest Missouri racers Jim Campbell, James Taylor, Bob Aton and the late Daryl Williams plus mechanics Lonnie Snodgrass and Dan Williams and Springfield businessman Chris Davis.

“If it weren’t for Mike Mittler, I wouldn’t have been able to live my dream as a race-car driver,” said Edwards, who went on to win 72 races in NASCAR’s top three divisions after Mittler gave him his big break in the Mittler Brothers NASCAR Truck Series entry in 2002.

Mittler Brothers Pull-Down Rig

Mike Mittler (left) being interviewed by OneDirt’s Ben Shelton

“It’s just a spectacular list of people whose careers have been launched by Mike Mittler,” Edwards said. “And through it all, he’s just the same, humble guy who works 25 hours a day and has integrity that’s unmatched.”

Edwards’ respect for Mittler was recently highlighted at a ceremony in St. Louis. Edwards, who unexpectedly walked away from NASCAR after the 2016 season, received the prestigious Stan Musial Award for sportsmanship. He, in turn, presented the plaque to Mittler.

“I was absolutely shocked by that,” Mittler said. “That just shows you the class that Carl has.”

Mittler is a St. Louis native who co-founded Mittler Brothers Machine & Tool along with brother, Paul, in 1980. While he never drove a race car, his love for the sport is matched by few.

“I’ve done every job in racing but drive the race car or drive the hauler,” Mittler said with a laugh. “I was always an owner-mechanic guy. Driving was never my thing. The competition part, for me, was to build cars and trucks for many years. I’ve been associated with a lot of great people.”

Mittler’s love for the sport began in the 1970s when he worked on teams that propelled Rusty Wallace and Kenny Wallace to winning stints on the American Speed Association and NASCAR levels. He’s remained active as a team owner of MB Motorsports on the NASCAR Truck Series, all the while maintaining a highly successful business in his hometown.

Mittler Brothers Power Hammer

Mike Mittler has spearheaded many time saving pieces of equipment.

Long-time Mittler friend Dan Robinson, General Manager of Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Missouri, said Mittler’s influence is felt on all levels of the sport.

“Mike Mittler has provided a valuable steppingstone for many up and coming racers through his MB Motorsports NASCAR Truck Series team,” Robinson said. “But what a lot of people don’t realize is how he has helped thousands of short-track racers across the country by building high-quality, American-made, affordable fabrication equipment that you will find in nearly every shop in North America.”

Tickets to the 31st annual Ozarks Area Racers Foundation Reunion and Hall of Fame event are $20 at the door or $15 in advance at area O’Reilly Auto Parts locations. Doors open at 4 p.m. with an autograph session from 5-6:30 p.m. with a separate question-and-answer forum that will include past Hall of Fame inductees. The Salute to Area Track Champions and the induction program will begin shortly after 6:30.

Race cars and other racing memorabilia will be on display and a silent auction will be held during the evening.

Those wishing to donate blood can do so from 2-5 p.m. in the Darr Family Lobby between the East and West Rooms at the E-Plex. Please visit cbco.org for more information about the Community Blood Center of the Ozarks.

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